Battlestar Galactica Focusing On AI Cylons Getting New Origin?

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

The 2003 Battlestar Galactica reboot updated many aspects of the original show. For example, the villainous Cylons still appear as hulking robots, but they could now infiltrate human society by looking and even acting completely human.

Now, Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail is rebooting this franchise, and it sounds like the Cylons are about to evolve yet again. As Winter Is Coming reports, Esmail recently mentioned how AI is “in the public consciousness and now that’s so influential in how we’re going to tell the story,” leading us to think that AI will now feature in the origin story of the new Cylons.

How The 2003 Reboot Changed The Cylons

In the seminal 2003 reboot of Battlestar Galactica, AI was certainly a concept science fiction was constantly exploring, but it didn’t really play into the origin of these bionic baddies. The original show had the Cylons created by an extinct reptilian race, but the reboot transformed them into an invention of humanity. They were created to be servants of humanity, but in Terminator-like fashion, the Cylons eventually gained awareness and began waging war against humanity.

Cylons Will Mirror Real-World AI Issues

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So, how do we think the new Battlestar Galactica is going to use AI to update the origin and even the function of the Cylons? In that same interview, Esmail mentioned how much he enjoyed the reboot’s extended allegory: in short, he liked how Ronald Moore turned the reboot into an allegory about America post-9/11.

Given that Esmail allegory has acknowledged that modern interest and anxiety about AI has been influential in the making of the reboot, we think the rise of the Cylons in this fictional world will very much mirror the rise of AI in our own world.

Ironically, though, we think the Battlestar Galactica reboot’s version of AI will not be what the average person thinks about when they hear the words “artificial intelligence.” For example, the insanely popular ChatGPT is a language-learning model and not a real AI, which is why it will often get facts wrong or manufacture information the same way your buddy might embellish a tall tale after a few beers. Such LLMs function much like enhanced search engines, which is one reason that more search engines are now incorporating AI functionality.


Right now, though, the holy grail of AI research has been the creation of an artificial general intelligence (or AGI) that can learn new information and pretty much do anything we can do, but better; unsurprisingly, the creation of an AGI is the ultimate goal of big name companies like OpenAI.That brings us back to how the Battlestar Galactica reboot will likely use AI. We’d place odds that the new show will be an extended allegory about the dangers of creating AGI and, more broadly, relying on AI for our daily needs. 

Similar To Ultron?

For example, it’s easy to imagine a major manufacturer in this fictional world letting AI take the wheel and the system ends up creating robotic replacements for humanity to accomplish all of its goals more efficiently. Such an AI might reach the same conclusion that Ultron did when fighting the Avengers: that wiping out humanity would be the only way the world (or 12 Colonies, in this case) could ever experience peace.

Battlestar Galactica Reboot On The Way

Battlestar Galactica could explore AI in other ways as well, including showcasing the dangers of humanity growing so soft because robots have replaced us that we never see the attack coming (like WALL-E meets The Terminator).

No matter how the show explores our anxieties surrounding artificial intelligence, we just hope the reboot ends up being nearly as good as Ronald Moore’s reboot from two decades ago. Otherwise, we’d have to ask: what’s the frakkin’ point of rebooting the franchise again in the first place?